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Backward Driving Culture

Posted July. 05, 2010 12:45,   


A careless driver caused his airport express bus to fall off an elevated motorway near Incheon Bridge, killing or injuring 24 passengers. A compact car stalled in the middle of the road due to engine failure and a one-ton truck crashed into it. The bus swerved to avoid colliding into the truck and fell off the elevated motorway. The accident happened in the middle of the day despite fine weather and good road conditions.

When a car stops on the road due to mechanical troubles, the driver under law must install a safety tripod 100 meters behind the vehicle in daytime and 200 meters behind at night. The car’s driver, however, did not follow the rule and left his car on the road for 20 minutes. Despite this, had the truck driver paid more attention to driving and the bus driver kept a safety distance, the accident could have been prevented.

If police and Incheon Bridge Co., Ltd. had immediately found the compact car and taken appropriate measures, the accident might never have happened. The site of the accident was a mere 500 meters away from a tollgate, but nobody reported it to police. Had the guardrail been stronger, the bus could have been prevented from falling off the motorway. Korea’s backward traffic culture is why the accident happened.

The country has the world’s 13th-largest economy but lags far behind in traffic culture. As of 2007, the number of traffic accident deaths per 10,000 cars was 3.1, more than twice the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average of 1.5. Annual losses stemming from traffic accidents reached 14 trillion won (1.1 billion U.S. dollars) in 2005, representing 1.8 percent of GDP. This is because public awareness of traffic order and safe driving has failed to keep pace with the steep rise in cars on the road.

Since 2008, the government has placed priority on halving the number of traffic casualties and taken measures toward this goal. Little progress has been made, however. If the people’s perception of traffic safety does not change, achieving the target will be impossible. Many drivers pay little or no attention to traffic rules and safety regulations. Though a safety check of cars is a basic requirement for the safety of both drivers and pedestrians, drivers in Korea take it lightly. The country is also behind advanced economies in traffic safety-related facilities.

The reckless pardoning of traffic violators under the excuse of “making a living” is another factor that undermines public awareness of law and order and road safety. Studies show that the number of traffic accidents and the death toll increases within one to two years of a general amnesty. Traffic accidents will drop only when public perception of safety changes and rules and regulations are rigorously enforced.